In this video, Jae Daniel takes time out from a recent tracking session at Black Rock EPS to walk us through his drum miking techniques, showing us his process for getting great drum sounds.
Jae talks about selecting the right drum mics and why he chooses the microphones he does.
As he demonstrates how to mic up a drum kit, Jae takes some time to explain his microphone selection and placement, and why he's making those choices. He offers up overhead miking tips, how to reduce bleed of the ever-present hi hat, why he uses multiple microphones on the kick drum, and more.
From microphone selection to placement, this is a crash course in miking drums!
Drum Miking Techniques – An In-Studio Tutorial Contents
Tip of the Hi-Hat
“This is a Royer ribbon mic, a figure 8 [polar pattern]. It's a little darker sounding mic, and on a hi-hat that's what I'm looking to get today. You’re never struggling to find hi-hat in the mix, and if anything you're trying to remove some of that.
“The figure 8 pattern is going to allow me also to put the null points of the mic where I don't want to pick things up, so I can adjust my mic [placement] so that if I want to try not to pick up other things I can put the null points of this mic in that area.
“It should just darken the Hat up just a little bit, versus putting your typical pencil condenser on there.”
- High SPL capabilities for electric guitar, brass and other close miking applications
- Multi-layered wind screen provides superior protection to ribbon element
- Internally shock-mounted ribbon transducer gives increased durability
- Passive design and custom transformer minimize high SPL overload
- Perfect for drums, guitars, horns & more
The Low-Down on Kick Drum
Jae opts for a two-microphone approach when miking up the kick drum.
Famous for capturing smooth low end, the wide-range frequency response of the large diaphragm cardioid dynamic Shure SM7B make it Jae's choice for an inside the kick mic.
“I'm going to try to get this really close to the beater head to pick up all that smack. That's where I'll get all that top-end that's going to cut through.”
- Flat, wide-range frequency response for exceptionally clean and natural reproduction of both music and speech
- Bass rolloff and mid-range emphasis (presence boost) controls with graphic display of response setting
- Internal air suspension shock isolation virtually eliminates mechanical noise transmission
- Dynamic cartridge with flat, wide-range frequency response for exceptionally clean and natural reproduction of both music and speech
- Great for close-miking instruments in studio where warm and smooth full-frequencies are a must
Jae notes that “the AKG D112 is pretty much a staple” as he places the mic in front of the kick drum. “I'll end up probably moving this mic a couple of times while we're getting sounds, but the idea is I'm going to get all that lower end information that I want.
“I'm going to end up making these adjustments with the mic because I need these mics to play nicely in phase…simple adjustments with this mic [the D112] will yield different phase cancellation from the other mic [the SM7b], so I'm gonna be very careful that my mic placement isn't actually taking away the characteristics that I want. If anything, [I want the phase cancellation] taking away characteristics I don't want.
“If you're strategic enough, you can actually remove trouble frequencies here without having to use EQ. So if you're savvy enough and don't mind taking the time…move the mics quarter inches, half inches, and just listen back and see what happens when you make these adjustments with your mic placement.”
- Integrated flexible mount makes it even more versatile
- Bass resonance volume chamber for unique, punchy sound
- Large diaphragm dynamic microphone delivers accurate low frequencies
- Integrated hum-compensation coil keeps noise to an absolute minimum
- Industry benchmark for bass drum microphone used on stages worldwide for over 30 years
Getting that Classic Snare Drum Sound
Shure SM57 on Top
Jae opts for another timeless Shure dynamic microphone for the snare.
“Nothing special going on here…[Shure] SM57 on the snare. I'll probably make a couple of adjustments…I'm trying to still get the smack, but I'm also trying [to place the mic so that] it rejects sound from back here,” Jae remarks as he motions to the area in the null spot of the SM57’s pickup pattern. “No matter what happens I'm getting the hi-hat in here, but if I place the mic strategically enough I can cut back on some of that.”
Jae sums up by observing that when you choose an SM57 for the snare you “can’t go wrong.”
- Contoured frequency response is clean, instrumental reproduction and rich vocal pickup
- Professional-quality reproduction for drum, precussion, and instrument amplifier miking
- Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main source while reducing background noise
- Extremely durable under heaviest use
- Frequency response 40 to 15,000 Hz
Shure SM81 on the Bottom
To capture the snares on the bottom of the snare drum, Jae selects the Shure SM 81 small diaphragm condenser. “I [have] a steep roll-off on the bottom here because I don't want to pick up much of the low-end information.
“I really just want this [placed so] that if I want to get more of the snares…I'm going to have this to dial in if I need a little bit more.
As for the hi-pass filter, Jae says “I did use a steep roll-off too, so I'm really only getting the mids and highs.”
- 0 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
- Selectable low-frequency response: flat, 6 or 18 dB/octave rolloff
- Low noise and high output clipping level
- Cardioid polar pattern, uniform with frequency and symmetric about axis, providing maximum rejection and minimum coloration of off-axis sounds
No Time for Tom Foolery
Sennheiser MD 421-II
“Here we have no surprise…the Sennheiser MD421 large diaphragm dynamic. Pretty much the mic you've heard on toms for decades.
If you take a look at any old studio pictures of your favorites, this is what you're seeing on those toms. It's just kind of a no-brainer. You get the sound you're looking for real quickly, real easily, without too much thought process.”
- Rugged professional microphone
- Five position bass roll-off switch
- Effective feedback rejection
- Clear sound reproduction
- Easy handling due to pronounced directivity
Sennheiser MD 441-U
For the floor tom, Jae selects the Sennheiser MD441-U. This dynamic super-cardioid microphone is great on many sources, including vocals (see: David Bowie, Elton John, and Stevie Nicks!).
Jae notes that the 441 is “very similar to the 421 large diaphragm dynamic mic…[it’s] also really great on toms.”
As a bonus, the tight super-cardioid pattern will help cut down on bleed from the cymbals and other drums that are off-axis of the mic.
- Excellent feedback rejection
- Excellent sound quality
- Spring capsule mounting provides low sensitivity to handling noise
- Hum compensating coil
- Five position bass roll-off switch
- Brilliance (treble boost) switch
- Integrated pop filter
AKG C414 XLS
“[The 414s go] way back, and some of the early ones are pretty sought-after. The first [414s] had CK12 capsules in them…pretty sexy sounding mics, while the B-ULS [versions]…are a little darker. These are newer versions. I think the XL-II might be the newest ones out there now.”
Editor’s Note: For a more detailed look at the evolution of the AKG 414, check out this article.
“If I could only have one mic to make a record with, I'd probably gravitate towards large diaphragm condensers, and these 414s…especially if I could have several other of the 414s. I can make a whole record with them. They have a [polar] pattern switch…roll off…you can pad them. Just a lot of versatility in this mic.
“And so in this room, which tends to have a little bit of low frequency build up, low-mid build up…I can take these really high and really try to just bring some air back to this.”
Regarding phase issues, Jae adds “I guess I should mention too that we're going to be crudely checking phase. I don't get too crazy about it. I guess I sort of subscribe to Joe Barresi’s idea that we're not going to get the tape measure out and measure the distance from the snare to each of the capsules. You can if you really want to be, you know, clinical about it.
“If you're working closely to the drummer with your overheads, you can use some sticks to measure. We’ll probably take a mic cable to just double-check to see that we are somewhat equidistant from the snare. Like I said earlier, you're going to move the mics after you hear things. You're going to hear something you don't like and you're going to move it until you do like it, and these are no different.”
- High linearity & neutral sound for beautifully detailed recording of vocals & any acoustic instrument
- Nine selectable polar patterns for the perfect setting for every application
- Three attenuation levels (-6/-12/-18dB) for close-up recording or high-output sources of up to 158dB SPL
- Three different switchable bass-cut filters to reduce wind noise, subsonic noise or proximity effect
- Overload warning with audio peak hold LED to detect shortest audio peaks
Get Creative with Room Mics
When it comes to capturing the room sound, Jae relies on the Neumann U87 to deliver the goods. He also uses a less obvious choice as a secondary room mic.
Neumann U87 Ai
“Everybody knows the name Neumann. [It] seems to be the one everybody gets tickled about. We’ve got a U87 here, one of the newer reissues. You know, U47, 67, 87…all staples on all the records we grew up listening to.
“I'm going to use this 87 today in the room. I'm going to take it real tall. I’m trying not to get too much low-frequency information in my room mics today, so with this Neumann I'm going to take that up.”
- The studio microphone classic!
- Variable large diaphragm microphone
- Pressure-gradient transducer with double membrane capsule
- Three directional characteristics: omni, cardioid, figure-8
- Perfect choice as vocal microphone for all types of music and speech
- Includes microphone, shock mount, windscreen, XLR cable
“I'm also going to bring in this Telefunken M80, which is a dynamic that sounds like a condenser. It's just really sensitive and it's got a wide frequency response. A lot of people use it as a vocal mic, but I found it to be a little bit of a secret weapon in this room.
“It gives us a real trashy room sound that might be something that you really crush with the compressor later and just slip into the mix a little bit. [I] might not use it, might use it, but it's a really neat trashy sound so…I tend to just throw it up just in case I need it later.”
- Features a wider frequency response and higher SPL capabilities, delivering a condenser-like performance in a rugged dynamic design
- Equally suitable for voice, instruments or drums on both stage and in the studio
- Its low mass capsule & super thin (yet surprisingly rugged) capsule membrane offers a wider range of emotion from a live vocal, with an intimacy traditionally reserved for studio quality condenser microphones
- Head & capsule assembly designed to reduce proximity effect, resulting in added low end clarity for vocals, while still providing strength and authority and an open, airy character without adding danger of upper midrange feedback or honk
In the Control Room
Once the mics are set, we head into the control room.
Black Rock EPS features a collection of some great sounding preamps. Jae explains, “I've got both my kick mics on the [Universal Audio] 610s, both my snare mics on the Avalons [737s]. I've got my room mics on the [Shadow Hills] Equinox, overheads over on the Hardy, and then I'm using the [Universal Audio] 8110 for the difference, with all the toms and stuff.
“And so now I've just patched everything in, and so once we get everything in Pro Tools correctly we’ll get [drummer] Poultry back in the room and we'll start getting some levels.”
So, there you have it! We hope that you use Jae's microphone selection and drum miking techniques as a creative starting point for your next tracking session.
Do you have some favorite drum mics, placements, or overall drum tracking strategies that you'd like to share? Please comment below…we'd love to hear from you!
Many thanks to:
Recording Studio: Black Rock EPS
Music: Chaos Theory by Scott Gavin
Videography & Editing: Joseph Mattimore